Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Anxiety, Depression,Your Individual Soul and the Corporation

July 11th, 2016 · soul and the corporation

“Individual soul and the corporation” sounds abstract, but, for many, preserving their individuality while in corporate life is a vital concern.

soul and the corporation
 Being unable to be oneself in a corporate context is the source of a great deal of the anxiety and depression in business life.  For depth psychotherapists such as C.G. Jung, James Hollis and Marion Woodman, this issue is closely tied to the question of individuation, which is the process of becoming the individual you or I most fundamentally are.
So, how does this question of our individuality relate to the self that shows up at work — what Jung would call the work persona?
To put it a slightly different way, how does this relate to our need for healthy and authentic emotional and feeling life, and for well-being and meaning?

Mask and False Self in Corporate Life

Jungian psychotherapists often refer to the social self as the persona, a Latin word meaning “mask”.  In social settings the persona serves both to hide and reveal our true identity.  As Daryl Sharp puts it,

The persona would live up to what’s expected, what is proper.  It is both a useful bridge socially and an indispensable protective covering; without  a persona, we are simply too vulnerable.  We regularly cover up our inferiorities with  a persona, since we do not like our weaknesses to be seen….  But it is psychologically unhealthy to identify with it, to believe that we are “nothing but” the person we show to others. [italics mine].

The danger inherent in corporate life is that the individual is given very clear, very strong messages about what is expected and proper.  Often, corporations make it very clear what they value, and what they do not value.  It’s often a very narrow range of things that are valued, and that conform to the corporation’s public image.

soul and the corporation


This can lead to individuals over-identifying with the corporate persona, and acting as if their corporate identity is the sum total of who they are.  All other aspects of the person increasingly tend to get pushed out of consciousness and into the shadow. This can be very destructive: if the individual gets stuck behind the mask, we refer to the false self.

Example.  Jane is a sales manager at a technology firm.  She is constantly working, and is never home for evenings with her family.  She is a fitness buff, because “it’s essential to look good if you want to sell”, and her only hobby is golf, which she plays, because, “Hey! That’s what salespeople do!”  Jane’s values are completely aligned with the company’s.

Corporate Meaning vs. Personal Meaning

One manifestation of corporate false self is when the personal meanings and values in life are largely usurped by corporate goals and meanings.  Sadly, there are many people in corporate management for whom this is true.  Often, this can lead to an extremely difficult situation when the individual loses a job or gets to the point of retirement.  As HR expert Dr. Doug Treen tells us

The retiring executive with a strong corporate ego takes the internalized corporate purpose, values and meaning into retirement.  This internal compass will fail the retiring executive as the dysfunction of the false self causes hyper stress.

The individual who has lived in the false self is often clueless about what  to do without the job. The danger is that both meaning and self identity are tied to the now non-existent job.

The Abusive Corporation

There are good corporations that support and uphold their employees, but corporate abuse is just as real as spousal or child abuse.

Because of the corporate persona trap, self-worth today is often defined by and derived from work.  It’s common enough to find employees who identity with, and are loyal to, employers who mistreat them and cross their boundaries in abusive ways.

Such abuse is fueled by the belief that the work identity is the individual sole real identity.  Depth psychotherapy is committed to helping the individual discover his or her true identity, and to claim her or his own real life.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Shaking the Foundations: Can I Survive Relationship Breakdown? #1

May 4th, 2015 · relationship breakdown

Relationship breakdown is greatly feared and brings many people into therapy.  Are there ways to survive, and to “come through” that preserve meaning and value in life?

relationship breakdown

In this post and my next one, I’ll be looking at concrete steps that a person can take to survive and ultimately move beyond relationship breakdown.

1. Accept & Acknowledge Relationship’s Ending

This sounds incredibly simple. Yet it may prove very difficult. It can be a struggle to come to terms with our denial of an ending. Often we may intellectually accept that a relationship with a lover a partner or a very close friend has come to an end, but the emotional and feeling level parts of the self may not be ready to accept this loss, as depth psychotherapists well know.

People can go for years in a state of denial. Yet, for life to flow, it’s essential to find the courage to fully acknowledge to ourselves that the relationship is over.

It may be essential to take formal explicit steps to live out the reality that the relationship is over. This may be where a ritual or other kind of symbolic act fits in.  It’s very important to allow the deepest self to experience the visceral, felt, emotional reality of relationship’s end.

Connected with this is the need to let things go.   It can be very important not to hang on to or to ruminate over the trappings or memories of the relationship.   In the aftermath of a relationship, if a lot of our energy is going into looking through old photo albums and remembering happier times in the relationship,  or alternately rehearsing situations from the relationship and thinking about what we would have / should have / could have done,   we are running the risk of living out  the archetypal reality embodied in the biblical story of Lot’s wife, who kept looking back,  and turned into a pillar of salt (read: bitterness).

2. Be Particularly Compassionate Towards Yourself

relationship breakdown

Right at the time of relationship breakdown, it will often be very important to be very kind to yourself.

Please be aware that you are going through something very hard, and very stressful in its demands on your physical self. If you can, please do kind things to your long-suffering body and your tender, inmost self.

Do not drive yourself like a harsh taskmaster. Do not let your inner criticism rip you up. Take time for yourself. Give yourself gifts, like a warm relaxing bath, listening to your favorite music, or walking in nature.

Treat yourself like you would your best friend, because, as depth therapy affirms, you are your best friend.

3. Deepen Your Connection with Your Real Identity

As James Hollis points out, this might be an important time, in a very compassionate way, to connect with who you really are.  Certainly  soulful people will be exploring and deepening their understanding of themselves for the their whole lives, as a work in progress.  Yet, it may be very important and very healing to connect with as much of our identity as we can at a time like this.

Here are some key questions that may help with getting in touch with your core identity:

It may help to speak to someone else about this; this is the kind of work that’s often aided by depth psychotherapy.

4. Seek Out Hope & Affirmation

relationship breakdown

At the time of relationship breakdown, who you choose to interact with makes a big difference.  It’s essential to connect with people who can offer you real support.  The people who can offer you genuine connection to life and hope.  It’s advantageous to put your effort into finding people who can affirm you and your life, rather than people who will simply offer pity, or tell you how awful it is.  Often, these are people who’ve been through some real and difficult things in their own lives.

It may also be important to seek out the right kind of affirming therapy or counselling.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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